Could AI be the injection the high street needs?

As lockdowns are lifted, the time could be right for AI technology to transform the retail experience at the same time as meeting the challenges of social distancing requirements and infection control. As retailers work to rebuild public confidence in visiting stories, rapid adoption of new technology could be conducive to recovery.

Speaking on a recent Resilience First panel, director for retail hospitality and consumer goods at Intel, David Dobson said the number one priority for business is providing a safe environment for both their employers and their customers. "We believe that COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation that was happening in retail as shown by the huge growth in online sales and the push towards frictionless and experiential shopping."

David Allinson, centre director of Manchester’s Arndale Centre, added: “Post-lockdown there are significant challenges to the customer experience, which include travel difficulties, lack of personal interaction with sales staff and closed fitting rooms. Shopping has become functional rather than social, with less time but more money spent in store per visit than is usual.

“A balance needs to be struck for the future on virtual versus physical interaction with further merging of physical and online retail. Shopper behaviour has changed and needs to be fully understood in order to redesign the shop floor to meet new requirements and expectations long-term.”

Tech firm, Beabloo's thermal sensing technology, for instance, can be used at the entrance and monitoring of customer density and face mask wearing inside the store.

"We can detect face masks and display a message to wear a mask if the customer is not wearing one, which avoids personal conflict with the customer,” says CEO of the firm, Jaume Portell. “Using video cameras to monitor customers and digital signage to signal safety we can make stores smarter to return customer emotional interaction and confidence. Now is the right time to introduce this technology because customers will understand why we are doing it.”

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